Having sent the Pharisees and Herodians packing, Jesus now receives a delegation of the Sadducees. It was now their opportunity to put Jesus to the test. The Sadducees, in contrast to the Pharisees, welcomed the spread of Hellenism to their culture, they elevated the Pentateuch over the rest of the Old Testament and they also rejected the handed down Jewish oral additions or clarifications to the law of Moses.
Significantly, they also did not believe in the immortality of the soul or the resurrection of the body. They held that the soul perished when the body died. So, in their attack on Jesus, they try to make belief in the resurrection look foolish. A woman has seven husbands, one after the other as each dies. Whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Hahaha!
Jesus however doesn’t laugh but instead, challenged these ‘experts in the law’ by suggesting their knowledge of scripture was lacking and, as a result of this ignorance they had missed the infinite power of God. Preferring the five books of Moses maybe it was excusable to think that David had missed it when he wrote; ‘you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay’ (Psalms 16:10). Daniel must have been off track when he said; ‘many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt’. (Daniel 12:2)
But Jesus challenges them in their own self defined sweet spot the Law of Moses. He goes to the book of Exodus, to a conversation between their hero, Moses and God (Ex 3:6). ‘Have you not read in the book of Moses’ how God spoke to him saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living’. Jesus is saying, God is not the God of the dead but, he is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then by inference these patriarchs must indeed be alive.
Bible teacher John Piper sums it up like this;
‘The assumption is: If God is your God, then there is so much power working for you that you can never be robbed of life.
Jesus’ teaching did two things. Firstly, it ‘silenced the Sadducees’ (v34) and secondly, it left the crowd, who were listening intently to the discussion, ‘astounded!’. The Greek word used by Matthew to describe Jesus’ effect on the crowd is ‘ekplēssō’. It is used 13 times in the New Testament and almost every time used to describe the reaction of individuals or crowds to the instruction of Jesus. However, in English, it is quite difficult to encapsulate in a single word. Suggestions in addition to astounded are, awed, amazed, dumbfounded or astonished. The Amplified Version suggests they were ‘astonished and overwhelmed with bewilderment wonder’. The literal meaning is ‘struck out of their senses for some time’. It seems that Jesus’ teaching kept his listeners with a jaw dropped in amazement as they ate breakfast the next day.
The amazing truth is that Jesus gives us hope. He said ‘whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live’! (John 11:25) He said; Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God believe also in me…. I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself.’ Totally amazing!
Heavenly Father, in glorifying Jesus and sending us your Spirit, you have opened the way to surpassing joy of eternal life in your presence. Help me to live every day in the light of this astonishing gift and may it increase my love for you and others and make my faith grow stronger.
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series